There are so many ways to make friends in today’s day and age. The older generation prefers the in-person, face-to-face way, while the younger folks can easily do the same via social media platforms. But whether it’s at school, at work or while in the holding room waiting to see your dentist, the opportunity to make a friend is always there. Despite all these avenues though, it’s not exactly easy to make friends for some of us, including Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer).
Barney is a regular middle schooler who comes from a very eclectic family. He doesn’t fit in in school and has trouble making friends, especially since he doesn’t have a B*Bot. In Ron’s Gone Wrong, a B*Bot is an android robot made by a company called Bubble, and meant to help kids make friends easily. The B*Bot essentially downloads data such as the user’s interests and behaviours, and matches itself with other B*Bots in the area with hosts that hold the same interests. You can customise your B*Bot’s skin, take photos, livestream videos, message friends, play games on it and more. It’s basically all the apps you use on your phone on a robot. And of course, with such a cool product, it comes with a price.
As the only kid in school without a B*Bot, Barney finds himself being more isolated and bullied, so you can only imagine the joy he feels when his family gets him a B*Bot for his birthday.
Except, there’s one issue. His B*Bot is faulty.
Unlike other B*Bots that learn all about its user with the touch of a palm, Barney’s B*Bot – Ron (Zach Galifianakis) – can’t even connect to the network. He creates a mess wherever he goes, doesn’t stay close to Barney, and most definitely doesn’t have a safety and security system put in place. So naturally, Ron does very little in helping Barney make friends.
Focused on fixing Ron, Barney devices a plan to teach Ron how to be his best friend and how to function like all the other B*Bots so that Ron can hopefully help him make new friends. Barney’s rules are pretty simple: Ron has to stay 6ft close to him, has to like him and has to like the exact same interests as him. Ron tries his best and intently listens, but things always turn awry for the duo. And whilst it was a very rough start, the two eventually form a deep connection and an organic friendship.
After getting into a bunch of trouble, Barney and Ron’s misadventures together catch the attention of B*Bot creator Mark and his financier Andrew. Andrew deeply believes that Ron’s faulty code will lead to the downfall of Bubble and sends out a huge taskforce to retrieve Ron and destroy him. Andrew would do whatever it takes to ensure that Bubble’s stakeholders would continue funding the company and fatten up his wallet, including invading the privacy of B*Bot users and leaving Barney out to almost die.
Mark, on the other hand, is incredibly intrigued by Ron’s behaviour. Whilst Andrew never cared about the children, Mark’s intention of creating B*Bots were to form connections. The connection he saw between Barney and Ron was remarkable and so he later helps Barney against Andrew.
As a whole, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a beautiful movie about friendship and what real connections should look like – regardless if it’s between a boy and an android, or between middle schoolers. The movie realistically shows how technology has trumped the way we humans interact with one another and how beautiful meaningful friendships can be. In fact, Ron’s Gone Wrong is almost a tech-modern version of ET where instead of an alien, the protagonist receives and befriends a robot instead.
Exciting, lighthearted and adventurous, Ron’s Gone Wrong is undoubtedly an animated film that is a good pick-me-up to destress from a difficult day, or to reflect upon your own relationships now that the COVID 19 pandemic has made spending quality time with some loved ones close to impossible.
Many of the laughs in Ron’s Gone Wrong comes from the jokes, deadpan deliveries and “malfunctions” from Ron himself. The jokes are kid-friendly, with little smarts to them and while these are the type of humour that younger audiences may find amusing, adult viewers won’t exactly laugh out loud.
For older audiences, the similarities between Bubble and real life tech companies (think Google and Facebook) are likely the most interesting bit of the movie. Aside from friendship, the movie places a large emphasis on the way corporations capitalise on its users, as well as surveil and mine their data, in order to sell more products and services to them. It’s a message that younger audiences may not grasp – especially given how they’re the most vulnerable in this situation -, the movie is a reminder for teens and parents that such corporations are not friends.
Accompanying the messages of the film is an animation style that is quite different from other Disney films, as while distributed by the House of Mouse, it is a holdover from its acquisition of 20th Century Studios. A debut film from Locksmith Animation, Ron’s Gone Wrong is visually different from Disney’s other films like Tangled and Raya and the Last Dragon for example. Although adorable, Ron’s Gone Wrong doesn’t have the ‘Disney look’ like Zootopia and Big Hero 6 has and falls in the same category as Luca. The animation is great, but it’s not special or memorable.
In all, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a modern take on E.T. with it’s heartwarming messages on friendship and connections. The movie also has additional messages on media conglomerates and technology too, but that’s likely more apparent to older audiences. An easy-to-watch film, Ron’s Gone Wrong is great if you’re looking for a pick me up, but won’t necessarily leave a lasting impression.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Ron’s Gone Wrong is a movie focused on friendship and connections. Think E.T., but with a robot instead.
Story - 6.5/10
Direction - 6.5/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10